Lyonel Feininger: The Grütz Tower, 1928

Lyonel Feininger: The Grütz Tower, 1928

Oil on canvas, 101.3 x 81 cm

An example of provenance research

Lyonel Feininger - master of form theory

The Grütz Tower, painted by Lyonel Feininger in his characteristic prismatic style, has been in the possession of the Hesse State Museum Darmstadt since the 1950s. How it found its way there was to be clarified by extensive research.

Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

Messages on the painting’s back

On the upper slat of the stretcher frame is the inscription “Der Grützturm [The Grütz Tower] 1928” in black lettering. Directly next to this is a white paper label bearing the printed serial number “14148”, and in blue crayon the inscription “KG 14”. To date a meaning could not be assigned to these inscriptions. In addition, the picture’s documentation contains a detailed listing of these inscriptions on its back. They all refer to the painting’s participation in exhibitions since 1945—with one exception:

The right-hand side of the stretcher frame bears in blue wax crayon the inscription “S M 3 Breslau”. It may be assumed that this abbreviation refers to the Silesian Museum of Fine Arts in Breslau.

Further research

The Silesian Museum of Fine Arts in Breslau’s register of items received for the years 1903 to 1945 is preserved in the Herder Institute in Marburg. Feininger’s painting is listed there, dated March of 1929, when it was acquired for 4,800 Marks by the Fides New Art Gallery in Dresden.

The databank maintained by the Research Centre for “Degenerate Art” at the Free University of Berlin, that inventories art confiscated during the National Socialists’ “degenerate art” campaign, traces the painting’s further provenance via its confiscation by the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda and its recovery by the art dealer Bernhard A. Böhmer. The sale of the painting by the Karl Buchholz Gallery to Conrad Doebbecke in September 1943 is documented by a subsequent written communication from the Karl Buchholz bookshop. 


The painting’s provenance for the period 1933 to 1945 could be fully resolved. Expropriation as a result of National Socialist persecution can be discounted.

Miriam Olivia Merz